Thursday, April 19, 2007

Just say no

OK, I need a little cheerleading and morale support here. As some of you know, I work 25 hours a week at an ad agency. I also take on occasional freelance projects with other clients -- something which, last year, added a significant chunk of change to our household income. It's enjoyable and profitable work, but time-consuming. Every hour I spend on it is an hour I'm not spending on finishing my novel. And the thing is, I'm excited about my novel. I think it has a fair chance of getting published. I want to work on it, and I want it to be good. With two babies in the mix, finding that time is harder than ever.

So, I've decided to stop taking on freelance projects until I finish my book. In fact, I just said no to an offer for a project that I normally would have taken, and let the client know that I'm going to take a break from freelancing for awhile. It was a little scary.

The money is certainly a large part of the reason I've done these projects. But the main reason is a sort of pessimistic pragmatism. Realistically, the chances that I could actually ever make a living (or even part of one) at fiction writing are next to none. So, it has seemed practical to continue to augment my copywriting career, make new contacts, etc.

But by doing this, I've realized, I'm holding myself back from really throwing myself fully into the novel, both practically and psychologically speaking. I'm hedging my bets. Protecting myself. Assuming the worst.

If I'm completely honest with myself, I have to admit that these projects are also a way to procrastinate. Doing them is a lot easier than working on the novel. And because they pay well, they're easy to justify. I can't work on my book, I tell myself; I have to do this "real" work first. But I'm never going to write the book I want -- at least not anytime soon -- if I don't start treating it as "real" work. Especially now that I've got a whole other "real" job in raising two children.

We can get by without the extra money, at least for now. I just have to hold onto the foolish hope that the sacrifice will pay off in the long run -- if not in monetary terms, then at least in terms of my being able to say, without feeling like a total phony, "I am a writer."


Blogger Motel Manager said...

I have been in this exact position and taken the same approach as you lately. In the past, I have taken on lots of freelance business-writing projects, which pay very well, but I totally do the work at the expense of my own writing, since I just don't have the energy left.

I've now started turning down such projects even before the debut of our baby. I figure I can always get back into the game if I want, but I can't keep putting off writing fiction forever, especially when I'm about to have even less time. I work at my regular job about the same amount as you do - sometimes slightly more, sometimes slightly less. So I hear ya, sister. Except that I will only have one baby and will probably handle the situation way less adeptly than you do with two - story of my life! :)

10:07 AM  
Blogger Churlita said...

If you don't need the money, it seems silly to work for the man instead of for yourself.

Good luck on the novel writing.

11:41 AM  
Blogger TLB said...

Jane, this is totally the right thing to do. You have to clear space in your life, mentally and physically, to finish a novel. Revising is different--revising doesn't take the same energy, but in finishing a draft you have to do some clear-cutting. I've been telling Brando the same thing for months, that he needs to stop accepting freelance projects, that we don't need the money that badly. The freelancing will still be there later if you want it.

Good luck, gf! You're going to do great.

11:59 AM  
Blogger winecat said...

Yes, the sacrifice will pay off. You will have your novel at the end along with a great feeling of accomplishment.

GO Jane GO

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I understand the money anxieties. I really do. But you’ve made the right decision. First of all, it’s not like you’re not working. You are. Three days a week. Second: freelance contacts. I don’t think there’ll ever be a lack of demand in the copywriting field. And you’re not leaving the field, you’re working in it. So whenever you’re ready or willing or needing to take on extra freelance work, you’ll be able to make new contacts. And as for making money with your writing, you never know. Good deals/advances do happen. And as your novel gets published, you might get a job teaching creative writing – if that’s what you want to do at some point. (That said, copywriting might be less time-consuming or stressful than teaching, especially if you can do it part-time or on the freelance basis.) Finally, you do need the time to write. You’ve got something really great going with this novel, and you’re so close to getting it finished. You’ve got to do it. More importantly, though, it’s not just this novel. It’s this, and the next one, and the next one, and the one after that. We’re in it for the long run. Which is to say, we’ve got to find ways of making writing a part of our routines. Even if we do it at the expense of money.

My 2 cents : )


9:15 PM  
Blogger Gallaudet said...

I echo everyone above, and am actually in the same situation you are right now, i.e. choosing to turn down work in favor of finishing a novel which as yet has not earned me one blessed cent. But I have found, as you are finding, that with children, I have to restrict my non-writing activities to some extent so that I have not only the time but also the juice to write fiction.

For the last eighteen months I've been working in the ER twenty hours a week, and have written damn-all. But now that we're moving and I am excited about what I'm writing again, I am going to remain unemployed for a while and get the book I'm working on finished before I look for another ER job.

Do I feel guilty that, unlike you, I will NOT be bringing in income from my day job? Hell, yes. But do I feel I need to take this chance? Hell, yes.

So we can be focused, highly productive fiction writers and mothers of two in--hooray--the same state! Speaking of which, come see me

3:17 AM  

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